Madrona News

A Nature Reprieve Is Just What We Need

By Tori Shao and Tom Jamieson, Cambium, Inc., 34th Ave

After a soggy winter and despite the international pandemic, spring is here. Signs are everywhere—chirping birds, blooming daffodils, and longer daylight hours. In our parks and along neighborhood streets, trees are starting to leaf out signaling new beginnings. In Seattle, we are lucky to have an abundance of diverse tree species to admire and now is a great time to appreciate how they enhance our city.

Get out and take a walk:
we all need it now more than ever. You’ll see magnolia flowers, fresh green leaves on towering maples and deep purple on the flowering plums. Perhaps the dogwoods are beginning to bloom. Maybe there’s a spot somewhere in your own yard to plant a new tree. Spring is the perfect time. Just in time for Earth Day. In fact, we celebrate trees year-round, from their stunning color display in the fall to their cooling shade in the summer. And, we are mindful of the broader benefits they provide oxygen, habitat, and food. In urban environments, their canopy coverage helps mitigate the urban heat island. Temperatures
in U.S. cities can get as much as 10 degrees higher than their surrounding areas due to the high density of buildings, miles of pavement, and other heat-absorbing materials in cities. Tree canopies reduce summer peak temperatures, lowering energy output used to cool buildings, reducing the number of heat-related illnesses and death, all while reducing air pollution and providing habitat.

In Seattle, we have over 15,000 acres of total tree canopy, which means that 28% of our city is covered by tree canopy! That’s very close to the 30% coverage goal set by the City Council in 2013. And while our goal is in sight, urban development remains a big challenge to maintaining tree canopy coverage. A 2016 City of Seattle Assessment estimates more than 300 acres of tree canopy are lost each year to development. So get out. Admire our city trees. Take note of your favorites. Help Seattle reach its canopy coverage goal by planting trees on your property, in your parking strip (with a free permit from SDOT), or joining a community stewardship program for a tree planting work party.

The folks over at Cambium, a Madrona landscape architecture firm, plant trees all the time. Here are a few their favorites: Tom, a Landscape Designer, most prefers the Stewartia (Stewartia monadelpha). This medium-sized tree grows to an appropriate scale for residential lots. This “four-season tree” is always doing something interesting. Elegant white flowers bloom mid-summer. It displays stunning fall color. The patchwork of its rich bark emphasizes tree structure in the winter. Landscape Architect, Michal, enjoys the hundreds of different varieties of Japanese maples. One of his favorites is ‘Shindeshojo’ Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Shindeshojo’), which is one of the few Japanese maples grown for spring foliage, rather than fall color. The new leaves open a pink color that slowly fades to green. Summer growth provides another flush of pink foliage, while autumn shows peachy tones. The Maintenance Division Manager, TJ, likes the Pink-flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida rubra). This medium-sized tree with year-round interest is a cherished heirloom tree native to the Eastern United States. Large, pink, upward-facing flowers cover mthe tree in spring, while fall color, and red berries provide food for songbirds into the winter. Janielle, a Project Manager, most likes the sourwood tree
(Oxydendron arboreum). This unique tree is a bit less common in the home landscape, which is even more reason to plant one! The leaves have a sour taste that put on a spectacular show in the fall, turning bright red and orange into the winter. Drooping clusters of small, white, bell-shaped flowers bloom mid-summer, in front of glossy green foliage. The seedpods remain on the tree throughout winter, dancing in the breeze.

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